‘Metalhead’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by October 26, 2014

‘Metalhead’ was written by WA’s wild woman of writing, the multi-award winning, Tiffany Barton. It is rare to find a playwright who can grab any situation by the neck, then give it a funny, sexy and tragic approach – all in the same play. Tiffany’s plays are always admired by their audience for being true-to-life and fresh in their approach. Tiffany has written many plays, and only last year one of her madcap comedies toured America.

This drama is a joint project between Creative Collaboration and the Fremantle Festival programme. It can be seen in The Victoria Hall, 179 High Street, Fremantle nightly until 30th October. The eighty-minute performances are at the earlier time of 7.00 pm.

 

 The Victoria Hall is a listed building and so in the past the lighting rig and scenery was limited by having to take extra care to preserve the interior. The hall has now been fitted with a massive complex rig, suspended on a few chains it is capable of holding a large quantity of lights. The whole proscenium arch is filled with a projection screen, and then flooded with some stunning and dramatic photographs of the Pilbara (multimedia by Curtis Taylor and Tony Gajewski).

 The seating is tiered and on two adjoining sides. The stage acts as another wall. The performance takes place mainly on the hall floor, where there is a layer of the rich red soil from north WA covering it (set by Cherie Hewson).

 

     It is a couple of years ago in the north-west settlement of Violence. Violence is like any other town in the region, populated by no-hopers. Young, handsome Aboriginal Jake (Rubeun Yorkshire) is playing soccer with his friends whilst his fifteen-year-old sister, Jackie (Maja Liwszyc) is teaching herself to box. A misplaced kick and Jake is in trouble, he has broken a window with his football.

     Jake’s father spends his time shared between hitting family members and drinking. Jake is petrified; but his father catches him, beats him and then abuses Jackie for good measure.

     We jump forward to the present day. Jake’s parents have disappeared from the scene, and the kids do not know where. Sadly, Jake is now becoming more like his father. Jake’s main friend is a giant of a lad, Baloo (Amri Mrisho), one of the few people that seems to have any control over Jake.

     Jake enjoys the excesses of life mainly at the expense of poor, naive Michaela (Caitlin Jane ‘CJ’ Hampson), whom he treats a sex object. One day a couple of free spirits, nomads, blow into the town from the desert, they are Mercy (Della Rae Morrison) and Freeman (Maitland Schnaars).

     Can things change in this township? Or on the other hand, will standards continue to collapse?

 

Directed by Monica Main (a major figure in WA theatre) this simple storyline, that has been richly written and cleverly structured, weaves its magic between reality and ghosts. There is plenty of movement, tension and realistic violence as Monica brings the audience face-to-face with reality of some communities. The acting is powerful and convincing, a great cast working perfectly together.

As well as the drama, we are treated to short dance routines (choreography by Claudia Alessi) and singing. Coupled with the superb sound effects of sand storms (sound design by Max Porotto) and wonderful lighting.

Cherie Hewson’s costumes for the spirits were remarkable in their design and construction. The red dust brought alive the north-west situation, although stage manager Rebecca Garlett must have a terrible job cleaning up the dust thrown around in the fight sequences (fight choreography by Andy Fraser and Nastassja Kruger) and washing the costumes that were scarlet by the end of each performance.

A powerful play in an intimate setting, congratulations all concerned.